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Additional inmates could bring revenue to Hubbard County, sheriff says

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Hubbard County Commissioners will discuss again how successful they want the county jail to be in light of a recent announcement that the state needs to move 1,000 inmates to local facilities.

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Potentially it could add 30 inmates to the current daily population and bring in an estimated $602,000 in annual revenue, Sheriff Cory Aukes told the board Tuesday.

Commissioner Cal Johannsen tabled the issue for a later discussion on the theory that the county has been there and done that.

Shortly after the facility opened in 2006 it tried recruiting more inmates only to learn that the 116-bed facility was engaged in a zero-sum game. The more inmates the jail had, the more costs ate into the bottom line, erasing profits.

“We need to be careful what we wish for,” said board chair Cal Johannsen.

At least five additional staff would be needed, Aukes estimated.

“Do we know what it’ll cost because it could cost us $600,000 to hire five new people,” Johannsen added.

But Aukes pointed out that $600,000 would be the minimum cost and profits would be above that.

Aukes said it will cost $82,000 annually to feed 30 additional inmates.

Interim jail administrator Joe Henry said there could be additional expenses such as medical costs, but that the inmates generally taken from the state Department of Corrections tend to be average security risks and in average health.

When Hubbard County houses other counties’ inmates “we’re getting the best, the worst, the medical nightmares…” Henry said.

Although Hubbard County’s jail has a separate female pod and the county has profited from taking female inmates from the region, that would not be an option, Aukes said, because the state has a contract with another facility to house female inmates. So males would be the only option and the maximum number the Hubbard County facility could take would be 30.

Realistically, Aukes said, the local facility would likely get inmates in the waning years of their sentences and the DOC would try to place locals in those slots.

No state inmates would be released in Hubbard County, Aukes said, soothing worries that Hubbard County might be a last stop in a criminal’s destination.

Newly-elected board chair Kathy Grell wondered if there could be some collateral costs such as families of inmates moving to the area.

Aukes said that might occur, but would be impossible to measure. The DOC would work to bring northern Minnesota inmates to Hubbard County, he said.

Johannsen wondered how a prisoner influx might impact visitation and other scheduling tasks.

Currently the jail is looking into setting up video visitation via the Internet and programs like SKYPE, Henry said.

The issue will be discussed at a work session Jan. 14, along with building improvements to the Heritage Living Center campus.

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